New mall policy calls Gautier mayor to action

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Gautier's mayor has heard several complaints about rowdy teens creating a weekend ruckus at Singing River Mall.

"Minor fights, holes being knocked in the wall, limbs being knocked off of trees, kids running up and down the mall hollering and screaming," listed Mayor Tommy Fortenberry.

That risky behavior is the reason the mall manager says you won't see unaccompanied teens inside mall stores on Friday and Saturday nights.

"We had requests from some of our retailers and some of our shoppers to implement this policy," said Lee Brumfield, one of the mall's owners.

Police said it's working.  Since the policy took effect earlier this month, there's been a decrease in the youth-related disturbances at the mall.

Though several city leaders agree with the new mall policy, they said it brings up some citywide questions, like where the young people went, and whether they have a place to go at all.

"Anytime you see 200, 300 kids somewhere on a Friday or Saturday night, they need a place to go," Fortenberry said.  "They don't need a roller rink, that's for younger kids.  They don't need a bowling alley, that's for older.  We need something in the middle. We need something for those 13, 14, 15, 16-year-old kids to do.

The mayor said one possibility may be hidden in the old movie theater behind the mall.

"You could use it for a gym," Fortenberry said.  "It's a 10,000 square foot building.  We could even use it for a theater, you know Biloxi has a little Sanger Theater.  We could use it as a theater or something, and also make it a teen center.

Fortenberry is determined to find a safe place for local teenagers to spend their free time.

"Its important that we find a place for these children to go to because there's a need there," Fortenberry said.  "There's a definite need.  We need to address it as a city, we need to address it as a county, whatever we need to do."

No plan is officially in place, but Fortenberry said he will make sure a teen center is built for Gautier's youth.

Mall management said teens are still welcome to go to different places inside the mall, like the movie theater or a restaurant.  They're asked not to loiter in the mall before or after their activities.

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